Eric: Hi, this is Eric Anderton. Welcome to Construction Genius, and today's episode is a solo show where I dive into the extremely important topic of how you can use conviction to attract talent in your organization.
We talk about how to clarify your convictions, having the courage of your convictions, and the power of conviction to both attract and repel people to your organization. Enjoy this episode and feel free to share it with other people who you think may benefit from listening to it.
This is Eric Anderton, and you're listening to “Construction Genius”, a leadership masterclass. Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. If you're a construction leader, you know all about the perspiration, and this show is all about the one percent inspiration that you can add to your hard work to help you to improve your leadership.
Let's go back in time to 1993. [01:05.8]
I just graduated from college with a degree in history. I took history because I liked it, and I always got straight A's and it was easy. I wasn't going to teach high school and I didn't want to get a master's or a PhD to teach college, because my priority was being involved in an outreach from the church I was going to, to help out with a Bible study on the local community college, so it was time to look for a job.
Now, I went to college in Humboldt County in Northern California, Humboldt State University. They just upgraded, by the way. They're now Cal Poly Humboldt, so congrats to them. But Humboldt County, if you are in California, you may know that it's known for redwoods, hippies, logging, and marijuana. Not much else is going on besides that in Humboldt County, so where was I going to work? [02:00.7]
Looking in the newspaper—the internet was not a big deal back in ’93—I saw advertisements for copier sales people and I had some experience in selling, based on my experience selling televisions in college at a local department store. You guys may remember it here in California, it was called Gottschalks, a small-time department store. They used to run, perpetually, Beauty and the Beast on the TV, so I knew that movie backwards and forwards.
Anyway, I had a bit of sales experience, looking for a job. Saw the ads for the copier sales person. And you know what copiers are, right? If you guys remember right, the copy machines, fax machines, all that kind of stuff. It's about one step up from used car salesperson, but I didn't care because I just wanted a job so I could go and focus in on the campus ministry.
But I wanted to begin to build a career and I did have some interest in sales, and so I identified a few of the local copier companies. There were about three or four of them, and I scheduled an interview with the most successful copier company in the area. [03:08.5]
The first step of the interview was actually a ride around with the general manager. I don't remember the exact process, but I must have cleared at least the initial level of acceptability and I got to ride around with the general manager and kind of get a sense of what they did every day when it came to selling copiers. Back then, in those days, what it involved was a lot of cold calls. You walk into businesses. You basically try and engage them in conversation and seeing if they wanted to buy a copier. I got a chance to get a taste of that and that was Step 1 of their interview process.
Step 2 of the interview process, and I cleared that hurdle, was an interview with the president of the company. Now, keep in mind, this was a successful copier company in a relatively small town. They had built it from the ground up and they had locations, if I remember rightly, in Humboldt County, in Eureka, and then also over in Redding, California. Again, those of you in Northern California, you'll kind of get an idea of the places I'm talking about. These are kind of small towns, nothing big, nothing sort of corporate or anything like that. [04:08.8]
But, nevertheless, if I had this interview with the president, and during the interview with the president, he began to ask me about my background and I told him that I was up in Humboldt County. I graduated from Humboldt State. I had a degree and I was involved in a campus Bible study at the local community college.
What happened next was very, very interesting. This guy looked me right in the eye and he said, “You can't serve two masters.” Huh. Now, that was a concept that I was relatively familiar with. It's an interesting verse in the New Testament. It says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
That's actually from the Sermon on the Mount, how very interesting, and remember, here am I, a relatively young guy, 23 years old, looking for a job, trying to put my best foot forward, and the president of this company that I'm thinking about working with, he looks me right in the eye and he says, “You can't serve two masters.” [05:11.0]
This gentleman was very upfront during the interview process and he was unafraid to make a clear statement during the process about the convictions that drove his company. How clear are you about the convictions that drive your company? And how effective are you at using those convictions in your hiring process? That's what I want to talk about today, how to use conviction to attract talent to your company. There's three things I want to talk about. Number one is how to clarify your convictions. Secondly, having the courage of your convictions, and, thirdly, the power of conviction to attract and repel. Let's dive right in. [06:02.8]
Number 1, how to clarify your convictions. First thing we want to think about is, what is a conviction? A conviction is a strong persuasion or belief. And why are convictions important? Convictions are important because they are a signpost pointing to deep reasons why. Think about that for a moment. What are the deep reasons, the deep convictions, the strong beliefs or persuasions that are driving your business?
Convictions are important because they give you clarity in decision-making and they also give you confidence in your decisions, because if you make a decision based on a genuine conviction that you hold, you can be content with the outcome of that decision, whether it be positive or negative, because sometimes we don't know what the outcomes of our decisions are going to be. [07:09.0]
But if we can make them based on our convictions, at least we can have a good conscience about those decisions, because if I go contrary to my convictions, what do I find? I find regret. So, how do you clarify your convictions, the convictions or the persuasions, or the beliefs that drive your company?
First thing you want to do is look in the mirror. If you are the owner, the president, the CEO of your construction company, look in the mirror and ask yourself, what do I really believe when it comes to my business? How should business be conducted? Who do I want to do business with? What do I want to be remembered for, as a result of the choices I make in my business? Look in the mirror. [08:00.8]
The second thing you can do is look to your best to clarify your convictions. And what do I mean by that? One of the ways to really get to the root of what the convictions are that drive your business is to gather your executive team, and when I say your executive team, I'm thinking about the people who are in it with you, come hell or high water. The people who are committed to your organization, the people who are both feet in.
Gather them and ask them, “What are the convictions or the beliefs that drive our organization?” Hopefully, you won't gather a bunch of yes men and women around you who will just parrot what they think you want to hear, but they will actually tell you the truth about the beliefs and the persuasions that drive your business and the way that you all behave in the marketplace.
One way to go through this conversation with your executive team, with those lifers, with those people who have both feet in, is to ask for them to give you an example of a person in your organization. Perhaps they're not in the room there. Ideally, they wouldn't be in the room in the conversation. [09:11.5]
Ask for an example of someone who is both feeding into your organization and really works with the kinds of convictions that you want your employees to have, and that are reflective of the beliefs and the persuasions that drive your business. Think about that particular person. Maybe it's a foreman or a superintendent, or a project manager, someone that's been with you for a long time.
List the characteristics of those people. How is it that they behave? How is it that they show up? How do they treat your customers? What is the way that they handle challenges on the job sites? How do they work through change order issues? How fervent are they in chasing money that you are owed? How committed are they to developing relationships with long term clients? Again, think of someone specifically and get a list of those qualities or those ways of thinking, or those persuasions that are demonstrated in the way that they behave, those convictions. [10:10.6]
Another way to do it is then to get the opposite of that. Think of someone who is technically sound, who perhaps has been successful in construction. They came to your company, you thought they were going to be a good hire, and yet they didn't fit with your company for whatever reason. Perhaps their convictions turned out to be not the same as yours, and as a result of that, you had to part ways with them, not necessarily because they were bad people, but just because they weren't a fit for your organization.
It's really important when you're going through this exercise of convictions, of strong persuasions or beliefs, to make a distinction between your own personal convictions and the convictions that drive your business. Now, there may not be too much of a distinction, but there may be. In other words, your personal opinions or convictions, you may not bring all of those to your business and that's totally appropriate. Don't feel that you have to do that. [11:02.8]
I think in the culture that we live in at the moment, too many people bring their whole self to work, and I don't think that's a hundred percent necessary. I think it's really necessary for you to define the convictions that drive your business, but also to give room for people whose convictions in their personal lives aren't necessarily yours. Okay, so that's the first thing you want to do. It’s to clarify your convictions.
Second thing you want to do then is to have the courage of your convictions during the interview process, and remember we're talking about how to use conviction to attract talent to your company. What do I mean by courage? In the context of this discussion, what I'm sharing here, I'd like to say courage is the willingness to face uncertainty or the ability to face uncertainty with confidence and resolution.
When you're in the interview process, you are in a place of uncertainty, aren't you, where you're bringing in a candidate and they're checking you out, you are checking them out? And you're asking the question, “Is this person both a technical fit and a conviction fit for my organization?” In the midst of that uncertainty, you have to have courage. [12:16.0]
Why is courage important in the interview process? Because competition for talent is extremely stiff, and you may have a need in your organization to hire someone, be it a project manager, superintendent, foreman, business development person, maybe someone even into the C-suite, and the competition for that person is really intense and there may not be a lot of those folks out there, and as a result of that, you feel the pressure to hire.
That's why it's so important to be clear on the convictions that drive your business, because if those convictions have led you to this point to build a successful business, you can be confident that those convictions will help you to continue to build your business, and though you may be under pressure and in a place of necessity to hire, you need to have the confidence and resolution not to hire someone who isn't a fit for your company. [13:10.2]
Hiring is an imperfect process. You often have to choose between two or more options. The sky is not parting and the light shining down on this one candidate necessarily, saying, “Hire this person.” You have to sift through a variety of options and having clarity in your convictions can really help you to do that. Then to have the courage of your convictions is really important as well, particularly, when you find someone who is technically a fit for your organization, and yet, in the back of your mind, you have this sneaky little voice questioning whether or not they share your beliefs, your convictions about how business should be done, how projects should be run, how communication should happen internally. [13:59.7]
What is the consequence of not having the courage of your convictions? It's compromise. You hire the wrong person and you're 90 days in, and you've invested time and money and resources to bring in this person on board, and you know that they are not the right fit and you regret not following your convictions in the hiring process.
Okay, so we've talked about how to clarify your convictions. We've talked about having the courage of your convictions, and now let's talk about the power of conviction to attract talent to your company and to repel talent. The bottom line in everything that I'm talking about here today is this: don't hire people who don't share your convictions. [14:51.7]
Let's talk about this idea of attracting and repelling. Let me give you an example from marketing. The very best marketing always attracts and repels. For instance, think about the Marlboro Man. What pops into your head immediately? The cowboy, right? The guy with the cowboy hat. Marlboro planted their flag and they proceeded with the marketing campaign based completely around the cowboy. It was singular, it was focused, and for some people, it was repellent. They weren't interested in the cowboy, but for others, it was extremely attractive, and so they put their flag in the dirt, so to speak, for the cowboy image and they were content to attract and repel based on that image.
When it comes to hiring, there's a problem with this idea of attracting and repelling. You can miss out on talented people, if you hire not just on a technical basis, but on a conviction basis, and both of those things have to go hand in hand. You have to hire people who have the technical abilities for the position that you're hiring or at least the potential to grow into those abilities, and you must hire people who share your business convictions. [16:04.3]
But if you do take that stand, then you can miss out on talented people, but that's okay because they're not a fit. It can also take longer to hire and you have to be willing to sit with that discomfort of not being able to fill a position right away. That has a lot to do then-- it really affects how you run your business, how you plan your business, the strategy you choose.
Some construction companies, you know what they do? They just grow too rapidly. They take on too much work and, as a result of that, they bring on people who aren't a fit to their companies to build that work, and they get down the line, they've generated a bunch of top line revenue. But because the people who are running the work aren't a cultural fit, the bottom line results, the profit, which, at the end of the day, is the most important thing, is not what they want and they go two, three, four, five years down the road, they wonder why their business is completely out of control. Much of that goes back to the idea and the reality that they have the wrong people in the wrong positions in their organization, and that often happens because they don't hire based on conviction. They just hire based on technical fit and you need both. [17:06.8]
Okay, so we've talked about the whole idea of this presentation here today. What I'm talking about is how to use conviction to attract talent to your company. We've talked about how to clarify your convictions, having the courage of your convictions, and the power of conviction both to attract and repel.
Let me give you a couple of examples here. This is from Netflix. This is taken directly from their website. I'm going to read you a little quote here. “We model ourselves on being a professional sports team, not a family. A family is about unconditional love. A dream team is about pushing yourself to be the best possible teammate, caring intensely about your team and knowing you may not be on the team forever.” Now, let that sit with you for a moment.
You know how some companies, they use this idea of “we're a fun-loving family” or “we're a family”? Netflix says, “We're not a family. We are like a professional sports team.” That is a statement of conviction and that statement of conviction can attract some people and it can repel others. [18:04.8]
Just imagine someone who is not interested in having a family at work. They know that they have a family back at the house. One family is enough. They want to come to work and ball out, and when they're there they're going to work really hard and they're going to give their very best, but they're not going to be under some illusion that the company is your family. Other people, they want that family atmosphere at work and other companies provide that family atmosphere. So, I'm not trying to get you to make a judgment on whether your company should be family-based or not. I'm just making the point that Netflix are clear about who they are and that conviction is used in their hiring process to attract and to repel.
Think about leadership at Amazon. Here's another example. I'm just going to read to you three of the values of the leadership team at Amazon. Frugality is one of them. “Have backbone; disagree and commit” is another, and then the third one is customer obsession. They use these values in deciding who should be part of the executive team in attracting and repelling. [19:04.4]
Amazon is a tremendously focused company with a great deal of conviction about how they do business. For instance, take that customer obsession. Are you obsessed about your customers? Frankly, you may not be. You may be more obsessed about the work that you're doing, more interested in the actual projects themselves, not necessarily your customers. You don't necessarily go around telling people that you're not obsessed about your customers, but that's not part of the conviction that drives your organization, so you shouldn't use that in your hiring process. You shouldn't say, “We're obsessed about customers,” when really the customer isn't the obsession. Now, of course, you take care of your customers, because if you don't, you don't have a business, but you guys know what I'm talking about here. The point is get clear on your convictions and use those in attracting talent to your organization.
As you're listening to this, you're saying again, “Eric, I hear these kinds of podcasts or videos, or messages or blog posts. I read them, I watch them, and I think, Man, that means I’ll never hire anyone into my organization and shouldn't hiring be-- It's a bit of a crapshoot, right? Just bring someone on and give them 90 days, maybe 120, and let's figure out if it works. [20:09.7]
Maybe I’ll just miss out on talent. If I do what you're telling me to do, Eric, I'm going to miss out on talent, and you know it's true. If you're going to follow this process, it will take you longer to hire, more than likely. You may miss out on talent. But the only question that you've got to ask yourself is this: “How much is it actually costing me in time and in hassle, and in cash, having the wrong people in my organization in the wrong seat?” I venture to bet that if you're not clear on your convictions and if you don't use those in attracting and repelling people in your organization, that you have folks in your company right now that are not a fit.
Back to my interview in 1993. The guy looked me in the eye and he said, “You can't serve two masters,” and what master was he serving? He was very clear about the master he was serving. His master, his god was money, and he was unashamed about that. [21:00.6]
I had a different master and that made me immediately feel uncomfortable, but he was okay with me feeling uncomfortable, because he did not want to hire someone who did not share his conviction on the importance of making money. The choice was clear. I was uncomfortable working for him and he was uncomfortable offering me the job. There wasn't a fit based on conviction and I was not offered the job.
Now, from a distance—I'm recording this in 2022. That was 25-plus years ago—I respect him on this point. He was clear about the convictions that drove his business and he was willing to hire people based on those convictions, and I went off to work for his direct competitor in the copier industry. Now, the company that I first interviewed with, the most successful company in the area, they continued to be successful. I went to work for the competitor and I was involved in that campus ministry, and, frankly, I struggled in my career for a number of years. [22:05.0]
I took the lumps, my lumps, but I don't regret the decision I made. I was comfortable with the decision I made not to work for that guy who looked me in the eye and said, “You can't serve two masters,” and I'm very confident that he was happy with the decision that he made also, and I bet they don't even remember me.
The point in the story is this. That guy had conviction and he hired based on that conviction. What are your convictions? Are you hiring based on those convictions? If you're not clear about them, if you don't have the courage of your convictions, if you're not willing to attract and repel based on those convictions, then you're going to struggle getting the right people in the right positions in your organization, and that is going to cost you.
So, what are your next steps? First, you need to clarify those convictions. Look in the mirror. What are the beliefs that are driving your business? Get with your key executives and leaders who have both feet in and spend some time clarifying the convictions, as I talked about earlier. [23:06.8]
Insert those convictions intentionally into your hiring process. Be right up front with them. Use them to attract and repel people to your organization. Have the courage of your convictions. Don't be afraid to hire slow, to go through the agony of not filling a position, and be thoughtful about your strategy overall and how your ability to source talent should influence that strategy.
Okay, I hope you found this helpful. How can I help you as far as that's concerned? This is the kind of conversation I have with my executive coaching clients all the time.
One of the things, things that I do is I help them to clarify what those convictions are, whether it's one-on-one with the president or CEO of the organization, or with the executive team, and I can do that in person or over Zoom. [23:56.0]
Then we can clarify your hiring process so that we insert those convictions into how you hire people by creating a scorecard of both the technical and the cultural competencies someone needs to succeed in your organization, and then using that scorecard as part of your hiring process.
Then I can also hold you accountable for bringing in the right people and putting them in the right position, and that's all through my executive coaching and leadership team facilitation that I do with my clients.
If you're a construction company CEO and you're listening to this podcast, and you're thinking, You know, Eric, I need some help with clarifying my convictions and inserting them into my hiring process, then just reach out to me on my website, ConstructionGenius.com/contact. Put your details in there and we can schedule a short 10-minute phone call to figure out if or how I can help you.
My name is Eric Anderton and I appreciate your time here today. [24:59.4]
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